Stanley Clarke explores acoustic jazz

After nearly four decades building a career as an outstanding jazz bassist known for electric jazz and fusion, Stanley Clarke discovered that his recorded legacy did not fully reflect the scope of his artistry.

“There’s a long list of people on whose records I’ve played acoustic bass — Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and many others,” says Clarke, as he cites some of his most illustrious collaborators. “But I’d never done an acoustic jazz trio recording of my own. So I wanted to record one that would just feature the piano and the acoustic bass in a way that you could really hear the bass.”

Ever open to exploration, Clarke rose to the challenge by connecting with pianist Hiromi Uehara and drummer Lenny White.

Their first recording for Heads Up International, “Jazz in the Garden,” became available worldwide May 12. The trio arrives at Yoshi’s on Friday for a three-day gig that offers six opportunities to hear the musicians in action.

Hiromi, as she prefers to be called, is of a distinctly younger generation. A protégé of Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea, her recordings showcase a fearless artist who constantly pushes boundaries. Easy listening she is not. But while Hiromi had never done straight-ahead jazz, she welcomed the opportunity to work with Clarke and White.

When Clarke first played with White in Henderson’s band, both men were in their early 20s. Years later, they reunited in the fusion ensemble Return to Forever.

“Lenny is the guy who will never let you forget tradition — ever,” Clarke says. He considers White among the most intelligent drummers on the scene, and feels that their pairing is as great as that of football’s Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

Not that Clarke, White and Hiromi are going to be throwing balls back and forth at Yoshi’s. But even for attendees who have savored the beauty of “Jazz in the Garden,” the improvisation that keeps the music forever fresh will make for a memorable show.

Boasting a tribute to the consciousness shift signaled by the election of President Barack Obama and a tune that Clarke and White played with Henderson many years ago, these shows will be special.

 

IF YOU GO

Stanley Clarke

  • Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.
  • When: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday
  • Tickets: $5 to $32
  • Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com

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